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[spir-i-choo-uh l] /ˈspɪr ɪ tʃu əl/
of, relating to, or consisting of spirit; incorporeal.
of or relating to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature:
a spiritual approach to life.
closely akin in interests, attitude, outlook, etc.:
the professor's spiritual heir in linguistics.
of or relating to spirits or to spiritualists; supernatural or spiritualistic.
characterized by or suggesting predominance of the spirit; ethereal or delicately refined:
She is more of a spiritual type than her rowdy brother.
of or relating to the spirit as the seat of the moral or religious nature.
of or relating to sacred things or matters; religious; devotional; sacred.
of or belonging to the church; ecclesiastical:
lords spiritual and temporal.
of or relating to the mind or intellect.
a spiritual or religious song:
authentic folk spirituals.
spirituals, affairs of the church.
a spiritual thing or matter.
Origin of spiritual
1275-1325; Middle English < Medieval Latin spīrituālis, equivalent to Latin spīritu- (stem of spīritus spirit) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
spiritually, adverb
spiritualness, noun
antispiritual, adjective
antispiritually, adverb
nonspiritual, adjective, noun
nonspiritually, adverb
nonspiritualness, noun
pseudospiritual, adjective
pseudospiritually, adverb
quasi-spiritual, adjective
quasi-spiritually, adverb
superspiritual, adjective
superspiritually, adverb
unspiritual, adjective
unspiritually, adverb
Can be confused
spirited, spiritual, spiritualistic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for spirituals
  • In tune, stanza form, and text it resembles a number of spirituals.
  • However, they did so anyway, getting together to sing songs and spirituals.
British Dictionary definitions for spirituals


relating to the spirit or soul and not to physical nature or matter; intangible
of, relating to, or characteristic of sacred things, the Church, religion, etc
standing in a relationship based on communication between the souls or minds of the persons involved: a spiritual father
having a mind or emotions of a high and delicately refined quality
(often pl) the sphere of religious, spiritual, or ecclesiastical matters, or such matters in themselves
the spiritual, the realm of spirits
Derived Forms
spiritually, adverb
spiritualness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spirituals



"of or concerning the spirit" (especially in religious aspects), c.1300, from Old French spirituel (12c.), from Latin spiritualis, from spiritus "of breathing, of the spirit" (see spirit (n.)). Meaning "of or concerning the church" is attested from mid-14c. The noun sense of "African-American religious song" first recorded 1866.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spirituals in Culture

spirituals definition

Religious songs of African-Americans, often written with freer rhythms and harmonies than most standard hymns. Spirituals, many of which go back to the days of slavery, often speak of biblical models of deliverance, like the Exodus. Some well-known spirituals are “Gonna Lay Down My Burden,” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

spirituals definition

A kind of religious song originated by African-Americans. Spirituals are often written with freer rhythms and harmonies than most standard hymns. Many of them go back to the days of slavery, and they often speak of biblical models of deliverance, such as the Exodus. Several spirituals have become standard pieces of music for concert singers and choruses. “Gonna Lay Down My Burden,” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” are spirituals.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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